Tim Gruar is a freelance writer and reviewer. He has been writing and broadcasting since his student days at Radio Active. His stuff currently appears in the Groove Guide. He also hosts The Adventures of the CoffeeBar Kid on Groove 107.7 FM in Wellington. The Show and the station are also accessible via Tunein Radio (iPod/Android). Tim also designs theatre posters and occasionally performs on stage as well. Check more here. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – The Velvet Underground, Velvet Underground and Nico: An audiophile quality version has finally been released of what must be one of the most influential albums in the past 40 years. When I first heard it I fast forwarded most of the tracks dismissing this as hippy-trippy nonsense. The cassette from the library was a little over played and my single speaker player could not duplicate the subtleties and delicate innuendos buried in the songs. I know this because umpteen reviewers and writers have told me so. A recent book pointed out all the reasons why this was the turning point in American music, why so many bands formed and why music as we knew it changed for the good. Really? I still can’t hear it. How much hype have I swallowed to be so cynical? I just like the songs; they’re naïve, cute, dinky and remind me of early Flying Nun stuff.
2 – The Donnas, Spend the Night: On the cover it looks like a scene from the slumber party in the movie Grease. But inside these girls are mean and lean! Rockin’ out with dumb ass songs about screwin’ boys for booze, rejecting guys for looking too ugly, getting high on Diet Coke and keying an ex-lover’s Mercedes, these gals are the perfect antidote to Guns’n’Roses – kinda like a comedy turn at Riot Grrrrl! Shame their various follow-ups, and there are many, all never live up to the pun fun and catchiness of this one!
3 – Pistol Annies, Hell on Heels: I came across this in my public library, a great source for new and undiscovered stuff – for me anyway. Turns out that one of the trio is married to Idol judge Blake Shelton. Despite that it’s a great album of high self, effacing irony. All the songs are sung with deep, sultry Southern accents, heavy on irony, and focused on the trashy end of the trailer park. The title track is about a gold diggin’ hottie. Slowed down just a little so that they can tease out every hormone from any male listener. Takin’ Pills is your ‘on-the-road- and-we-got-nothin’ standard, but again sung in heavy irony. There’s also a track about a low down coot of a hubby, who’s always out huntin’ and another ‘bout contemplating domestic suicide. Essentially, this is like an updated version of Dolly Parton’s 9-5. Life is hell for modern women in the Bible belt!
4 – Dresden Dolls, Yes. Virginia: In the days when Amanda Palmer was friends with Roadrunner (records) she and Brian Viglione produced some incredible witting and poignant material. Two things always amaze me about this album. 1. The sense of drama and dark theatre and 2. The incredible spontaneous musicianship. Brian’s drumming is more of an answer to Amanda’s piano and lyrics than mere timekeeping. Sex Changes is a venomous, face the facts, ‘I told you so’ to anyone contemplating the snip. Backstabber still intrigues me. I know it’s the immature retort to an ex-partner or singer or critic but I’d love to know who? Delilah is about an abuse victim, the kind that goes back for more. Amanda sings as the supportive friend but makes no bones about the victim – she’s as responsible as the abuser! This is both controversial and honest. I like that. My Alcoholic Friends and Mandy Goes To Med School are the perfect horror-film cabaret numbers we’ve come to expect from the Dolls, and are still enduring. There are many other great songs on this album and that’s the reason I keep returning – multiple listens are always possible.
5 – The Cult, Love: Whenever I want to go jogging or walking the stroller, I put this on the ipod. The whole thing is perfect 4/4 time. The 3-4 minute songs give perfect cadences to any decent work out. She Sells Sanctuary is ultimate cliché but just awesome. Overbloated, gothic rock. Bombastic, stylised guitars from Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury’s exaggerated wail – like Robert Plant on acid! The whole album is full of pseudo-goth metal rubbish about dark angels, southern voodoo and Cherokee mysticism. Lil Devil was my choice for a wedding dance a few years back – like a jet black rendition of a Jerry Lee Lewis composition. There’s a hint of nostalgia too, as this was the album I thrashed on Student Radio, back in the day. Cheesy. Yup. Corny. A-ha. But it rulz!